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Andrew Cuomo begins second term with funeral of his father

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In addition to attending his father’s funeral, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will also be preparing for a State of the State address over the next several days.

The governor had scheduled to deliver the annual speech on Jan. 7, the day the legislature returns to session, as is traditional. But the governor and legislative leaders agreed to postpone the State of the State to Jan. 21 because of the extenuating circumstances of former Gov. Mario Cuomo's death.

On New Year's Day, Cuomo gave inauguration speeches in New York City and Buffalo, finishing his last address just two hours before his father passed away.  

Andrew Cuomo spoke at the recently finished World Trade Center in lower Manhattan. It was a somber speech, as he recounted what was to be one of his final times with his father, seeking advice from Mario Cuomo about his inauguration speech. His father was too ill to attend.

“He couldn’t be here physically today,” Cuomo said, just hours before his father passed away. “But my father is in this room.”

Andrew Cuomo begins his second term in office amid strife over the police killing of Eric Garner, an unarmed citizen in Staten Island who was selling illegal cigarettes, and the murder of two police officers.

“The situation has devolved into one in which everyone is talking but no one is listening,” Cuomo said. “The truth is there are troubling questions that have been raised that must be answered. The truth is police officers need do more safety and need more protection. The truth is law enforcement needs the respect of the community as much as the community needs to respect law enforcement."

Cuomo is expected to detail criminal justice reforms in his State of the State message.

The governor, who has said in recent months that he wants to break the public education monopoly, says New Yorkers have concerns about the quality of the schools and whether they are adequately preparing students.

“We have two education systems if we want to tell the truth – one for the rich, and one for the poor,” Cuomo said. “If you happen to be born in the wrong zip code and go to a failing public school, you can get left behind and never catch up. Public education that was the great equalizer in the society has become in some communities the great discriminator.”

Cuomo has been feuding with the state’s teachers union for months. Teachers protested outside the governor’s mansion on New Year’s Eve, after Cuomo vetoed a bill  that he originally supported. It would have delayed the effects of Common Core related tests on teacher’s annual performance reviews.  The governor says an evaluation system that highly rates over 95 percent of the state’s teachers is flawed.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who was honored in Buffalo at a separate inaugural event on New Year's Day, asked the public to judge her and the governor on their progress over the next four years on social justice issues, including women’s rights.  

The governor promised to replicate the economic resurgence in Buffalo in the rest of upstate during his next four years, and he acknowledged the growing problem of economic inequality.

Cuomo did not hold any inaugural events in Albany, where he centered the ceremonies four years ago. He promised then that during his first term in office, he would clean up corruption in the Capitol and enact ethics reform.

The governor was unable to get items like public campaign finance or reform of expense payments to state lawmakers approved. And federal prosecutors are investigating several lawmakers, including the Assembly Speaker, and the office of the governor. Cuomo made no mention of that in his inauguration remarks.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.